Sharing Others’ Works

Sharing the works of others—it’s the courteous thing to do in order to support one another, but it is one thing to share someone else’s work and another thing to get that writer new readers. So how do you do it? First off, you have multiple platforms on which you can promote others. Any social media outlet (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, blogs, etc) offers unique opportunities, but how do you share? What do you say?

Most of the time people simply say, “Read this awesome story!” or there might be a little more like, “Be sure to check out this fantastic fantasy story!” or such. It tends to be short and relatively vague, and it works…sometimes, but personally with me, such blurbs really don’t get my attention. It gives me no motivation to click on the link because it doesn’t speak to me.

However, I ran an experiment. I wrote up two random blurbs for a story and sent them to ten different people. Here is what I sent:

  1. “Hey, you should totally check out this awesome fantasy book! Lots of twists and turns. Very intriguing.”

  2. “Hey, you should totally check out this awesome fantasy book! It has me constantly doubting the motives of each characters, so I don’t trust any of them, but it’s a lot of fun. Plus! There’s a character who ABSOLUTELY reminds me of Rumpelstiltskin from ‘Once Upon a Time’, so if you like that character from that show, you’d like this book.”

(The story I wrote the blurbs about is ‘The Magician: Book One in the Rogue Portal Series by Courtney Herz’ in case anyone was wondering.)

I asked them which one did they prefer better? Which one would likely convince them to check out the story. The results?

7/10 chose #2

2/10 chose #1

1/10 was absolutely indecisive

The people who chose #1 said short was best, but they didn’t really give much more reason other than that.

Those who chose #2 said it was much more personalized, and it spoke to them more individually. The impression they got with #1 was the person was sharing the story only out of obligation—not because they really want to or believed in the story.

One person who chose #2 said if it were an official promotion of a story, they would choose #1 instead, but if it was coming from someone they knew and trusted who was helping out a fellow writer friend and sharing their work in a more informal way, they would choose #2.

And the indecisive person? Still hasn’t given me a reason one way or another.

So what is the verdict?

If you are sharing to help someone out in an informal manner, and if you really want to get that author more readers and help them reach their audience, take an extra moment to craft your message. Find something in the story that truly catches and keeps your attention, something that you find unique because more stories don’t do it (e.g. a vampire that cares for his pet cat even though he’s chasing down possible end-of-the-world threats (this story is ‘Shadows of Glenhill’ by Raven Blackburn on Wattpad)). Don’t make it a long blurb or have too many examples of things you really like in the story. Just one should do. Craft it so it’s more personable.

However, if you are sharing someone’s work in a more formal manner (perhaps as a blog post, or maybe your Facebook Page is about promoting others’ stories), then shorter is better, but still try to make it unique. Don’t settle for, “Great story!” Add something more like #1 had where it said, “…lots of twists and turns. Very intriguing!” —this tells you that the story will be one that will make you think as you try to get ahead of the characters and even the author. Every little bit helps, but keep it short. And, of course, always supply the link where the story may be found.

So, go ahead. Share fellow writers’ works. They may do the same in return, and both of you could be helping out one another. That is what a supportive community is all about.

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Create a Specialized Group For More Interaction

Last week, I discussed why it’s important to create a Facebook (FB) page now regardless if you’re published or not. Now, there’s a catch with the Pages, and this is the overall lack of interaction with your followers. I’m not saying you won’t have any interaction with anyone—just not as much the Page gives you the illusion of having. This is because of the inability to tag people in posts (unless in comments, but even then it’s unreliable) and not everyone who likes your page will see every post you make. So what is a good alternative? Why have a FB Page in the first place?

The reason why I recommend getting a FB Page first is because it is the first steppingstone into building your platform. It’s simple, and it’s relatively easy to get people to follow you. If someone wants to support you, and they see the link to your Page, all they have to do is Like it. Not much commitment required on their part since they may or may not see your posts in their news feed. Basically, they’re another number, and it makes you looks good. But what if you (and your followers) want more than that? What if you really want to connect with people who are supporting you? What do you do then? Well, after you’ve established how you post and what sort of things you will be posting, you move on to the second steppingstone—creating a customized group primarily for your followers.

Now, to do this, you can create a Facebook Group or even a Google Plus group or something on Twitter—or all the above. There are numerous social media outlets out there, and all you need is the ability to create a group. Once you have that group, you can send a personal invite to those people who like your Page. Explain to them how you will be posting even more stuff in the group and that you welcome interaction. Not only that, but what you post in your group has a higher chance of showing up in people’s news feed than the Page. For the most part, people feel privileged to be invited to such a personalized group, and the fun really begins because now you can tag people to strike up a conversation or to show them a picture or a quote that made you think of them specifically. They feel included, and people like this.

Why not just create a Facebook Group first? Why start with a Facebook Page? First off, there are no rules as to which one you should do first, but I have found people are more inclined to Like a Page rather than join a Group. This is because the thought of a Group gives the impression that more commitment is required (in order to have proper interaction). I like to use my Facebook Page as the gateway to my Group. When someone likes my Page, I send them a private message thanking them for liking my Page, and then I invite them to my Group if they’re interested. Never add anyone to the Group without their approval. This is regarded as rude and may stress out the individual because the last thing they need to put up with at that time in their life is another Group (no matter how awesome it is). Rather, leave the decision up to them. Tell them about it, share the link of the Group, but let them go to the Group and decide for themselves whether or not they want to join. If they join—wonderful! If they don’t, then don’t take it personally.

How long should you wait between creating a Page and creating a Group? While there is no absolute rule to this, I recommend waiting six months to a year before creating a Group after you’ve made a Page. This is because you need to build up your credibility and establish your FB presence, so when people see you have a special group they could join, they won’t hesitate joining because they know you. Also, when you create a Group, you may find it difficult to keep up with constant activity on both sites. I post 95% more in my Group than I do on my Page, but I still keep my Page active because I have specific things I make sure I post there to keep it alive. Otherwise, all my energy would go into my Group. It’s hard to multitask. You don’t want to give your followers duplicate posts because that could lead to them unfollowing you on one (or both) of the sites.

Some people say self-promotion does not work for authors, and they may right. The internet is so bombarded with information and everyone clambering to get on top, that it is really almost impossible to reach a huge mass of people—almost impossible. However, if you stop focusing on the larger scale but connect more individually with each person, and it becomes a real connection. Over time you’ll realize how many followers your actually have.

This is why I recommend interaction through your own Group using your Page as your gateway to the Group. Some people have more success than others using Pages than Groups or using Groups than Pages or something altogether different. You need to determine what works best for you and what your method is to reach your audience. It takes time, patience, and confidence. If you have low self-esteem, don’t make it so much about you. Rather, make it about others—seek to be a source of encouragement, inspiration, and a safe haven on the otherwise cruel place known as the internet. As they come to appreciate what you have to offer, they’ll come to respect you and hold you in high regard, and this gives you confidence.

If you’d like to compare my Page and my Group as an example, you may find them here:

Page: www.facebook.com/AuthorKellyBlanchard

Group: www.facebook.com/groups/AuthorKellyBlanchard

P.S. With the Page and with the Group, you have the ability to customize your URL so it’s not merely ‘facebook.com/(a long series of numbers…)’. Be sure to look into that. It helps give you a more professional presence.

The Etiquette of Self-Promotion

It is commonly said in order to promote and market your work, “Presence is key.” Does this mean you have to bombard people with posts saying, “Buy my book!”? Or does it mean you can constantly tell people, “Read my stuff! Look at me! Check this out!”? No. That is not what it means when it is said ‘presence is key’. So what exactly does it mean?

First off, the saying is very true. In order to promote, market, and sell your work, your presence must be out there—notice, I said your presence, not the presence of your books or work or anything like that but rather you. You must become a face and a name familiar to people because if people know you, they’ll be more likely to consider whatever you’re selling, and they may start spreading the word. So, how do you do this?

Don’t make it about you. If you’re on Facebook, Twitter, or any social media site, don’t make all your posts about you. Instead, reach out to others, encourage them, answer their questions if you can, and promote their work. Then, when the time is right, market your own work, but don’t spam your followers with posts saying anything along the lines of, “This is worth reading! Worth purchasing!” Your work should speak for itself. Your readers should speak for you. If you have to boast about it, that gives the exact opposite message you want to portray—it tells me your work isn’t exceptional.

Is there a place for you to specifically promote your work without being a nag? Yes, but you need to create that space. For instance, having a Facebook Page or Facebook Group specifically for your work is a good place to post anything regarding what your work. Your followers there expect that, so it’s fine. However, don’t private message anyone or go to someone else’s page and tell them they need to buy your book. That is distasteful etiquette, and as I said, it has the opposite effect than what you want. The only time this is acceptable is when someone inquires of something along the same lines as to whatever you have to offer. That’s a good time to suggest whatever your work. Notice, I said suggest—not tell or order the person to purchase whatever you’re offering because when someone commands us to do something, we’re more inclined to do the opposite just because we like to be rebellious like that.

So, how should you approach marketing yourself? Don’t be afraid of social media or of criticism. Be watchful of what you say, and be considerate of others—remember, they’re human beings as well. Determine your strengths and be willing to share your resources with others without expecting anything in return. Yes, in an ideal world, if you promote someone’s work, they will in turn promote yours, and some people are really good like that, but others…they just forget or don’t think about it, and that’s okay. That is simply who they are, and you shouldn’t take offense to it, and you’re not obligated to share their work either unless you truly think it is worth sharing. At the same time identify your weaknesses and be on the lookout for those people who might be able to help you strengthen those areas. Someone else might have the same weakness and ask the question you didn’t want to ever ask, so you can follow the conversation and learn as well.

Also, when you are giving others feedback on their work, don’t settle for, “That was good!” While the writer appreciates the fact that you think their story is worthy of some praise, this kind of feedback is shallow and hollow. Instead, look into whatever you’re reading and try to pick out one unique thing that stands out for you and bring that out. That will show the author that you really did pay attention. However, if you see errors or anything that needs correcting, be courteous and contact them privately informing them of the problem. Why do it privately? Well, one day it may be your work out there being critiqued, and would you rather someone publicly correct you or privately? If you’ve shown respect to others, they are more prone to show you the same respect.

In other words, be human. Whatever you have that you’re promoting, seek opportunities to surprise your followers and do random acts of kindness for them. Offer unique opportunities that would get your readers excited about interacting with you.

Is this all you need to do to successfully sell your work? No. Each social media site has its tricks here and there and little secrets that’ll help you. However, knowing who you are and being comfortable and confident that your work can speak for itself is a major realization, and this carries over to all social media sites.

In the end, be real, promote your work from time-to-time, but be yourself.